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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

As I wrote previously in my post about my summer reading list, I obtained The Ocean at the End of the Lane knowing absolutely nothing about the novel and only that the author was highly recommended to me.  Upon finishing the novel, I’m still not entirely sure what it’s all about – only because it is so imaginatively written that it is extremely difficult to put cleanly into one genre or the other.  The best way I can describe it is like a Percy Jackson book for adults.  It is much darker than Riordan’s series, but follows the same vein of the mix between real world and what else might be out there – be it magic, mythology, or some other element.

The story begins when man returns to his hometown in England for a funeral.  He drives aimlessly, and arrives at a house he vaguely remembers having a playmate at as a child.  On impulse, he stops in, and finds who he believes to be the girls mother still living there.  He remembers the girl, Letty Hempstock, talking about an ocean on the property, which could have only been a pond.  The protagonist asks Mrs. Hempstock if he can walk to see the pond, and upon doing so, a flood of memories of his interactions with the family and their ties to things beyond our known world rush back to him.

When he was 7, his parents began renting out his room to boarders to make ends meet.  The first boarder stole his father’s car, drove it down the lane to near where the Hempstock farm was, and killed himself in it.  Shortly after, strange things begin happening, which according to 11 year old Letty Hempstock, the protganist/narrator’s friend, all has to do with some other worldly beings her grandmother refers to as “fleas”.  She takes our narrator with her to take care of said flea once and for all, but things don’t go exactly according to plan.  The next thing our narrator knows, the flea has taken human form as a nanny in his house and is controlling everything.  The protagonist knows she’s evil, but can’t get rid of her – no one will believe how awful she is, and she can read his thoughts and appear anywhere on the property in a moment’s notice when he tries to escape.  All seems hopeless, but it gets worse still.  There is a hierarchy of magic beings, and when “fleas” like Ursula the nanny get loose in the world they aren’t supposed to be in, they attract more powerful and terrifying things to come and feast on them – putting everyone in danger.

This was a fantasy book unlike any I’ve read before, and I did enjoy it.  I read the whole thing in a night, mostly because it was too frightening to put down before resolution had been attained.  If you enjoy fantasy, mythology, or a good scare, you’ll enjoy this book.  Also interesting and different, the pages are illustrated, which is something I don’t usually see in adult books but really enjoyed.  If you need something truly unique to break you out of a reading rut, I recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane... and I give it 3.5 stars! ★★★1/2

– Becca



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